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Windows Phone 7.8 Gets a Demo

Microsoft's Ben Rudolph posted a new video demo this week for the Windows Phone 7.8 Start Screen. For those who missed the Windows Phone announcements last week, Windows Phone 7.8 is the consolation prize for all Windows Phone 7.5 users, whose devices won't be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8.

One of the nicest visual changes coming to Windows Phone 8 is the ability to resize tiles and the introduction of a third, small tile size that can fit four-abreast on the home screen. All of the tiles take up more of the screen's available real estate, and new tile color options are available, too.

In his demo of what he described as "a very early build" of Windows Phone 7.8, Rudolph showed a fluid operation for changing tile sizes on a Nokia Lumia 900. Similar to the way tiles are moved and pinned or unpinned on the Start Screen in Windows Phone 7.5, the process involved pressing and holding the tile. A pop-up arrow allows the tile to be enlarged or shrunk.

The demo Start Screen looked identical to the Windows Phone 8 Start Screen that Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president for Windows Phone Program Management, showed off last week. For the record, Rudolph's 1:22 demo didn't reveal any new features of Windows Phone 7.8 outside of the Start Screen. A Windows Phone 7.5 News page where the video also appears also plugs Windows Phone's 100,000 apps and promises some new Lumia 900 features coming from Nokia.

The video seems like the start of a marketing campaign to ease the feelings, and maintain the enthusiasm, of Windows Phone buyers -- especially recent buyers of the flagship Lumia 900 -- who won't be able to get some of the features of version 8, such as a shared core with Windows 8, multi-core processor support, NFC support and higher-definition screen resolutions.

As tech consumers, we all understand the deal. The industry moves fast, and many of us upgrade devices within two years. Yes, Nokia released the first flagship phone only a few months ago, but these things have short shelf-lives. When you buy a mobile OS that's coming up on a year old, you can expect it to be eclipsed by a next generation soon. (Windows Phone 8 isn't out yet, either. That event still appears to be months away.)

Microsoft's efforts to include its early adopters are admirable and welcome. And let's be honest about the situation. Microsoft's user base right now is too small to cater to from a strategic standpoint. If Microsoft focuses too much on the few million Windows Phone users right now, and misses some technological advancements, Microsoft risks sentencing those early adopters to being orphans on a platform that gets killed for lack of market share.

I think Microsoft is striking the right balance with Windows Phone 7.8, but then I personally didn't just commit to a contract on a Lumia 900.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 27, 2012